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Influx of business gives regatta a golden glow

Workers of BNY Mellon, a financial services firm, readied its hospitality tent for the Head of the Charles Regatta.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

At Eastern Standard, the staff is geared up for a few very big days. More than 3,000 guests dined at the Kenmore Square restaurant over this same weekend last year, and this year should be no different, said restaurant manager Deena Marlette.

“We definitely expect a ton of business,” she said.

As rowers and fans from around the world mark the 50th anniversary of the annual Head of the Charles Regatta this weekend, local restaurants, hotels, and merchants are celebrating the business the event generates. As many as 410,000 visitors — and their money — from more than 30 countries are expected to pour into the Boston area.


Last year, an estimated 220,000 attendees spent $54 million over the course of the event, according to a study by consulting firm McKinsey and Co. State and local governments took in another $4 million to $5 million in meals, hotel, and sales taxes during regatta weekend.

“It obviously has a huge economic impact on the Commonwealth,” said Fred Schoch, executive director of the regatta. “We fill hotel rooms, we fill restaurants, we make airlines happy, we put gas in tanks.”

The hospitality industry is, perhaps, the most obvious beneficiary of the surge in visitors. Approximately two-thirds of spending during the regatta goes to food and lodging costs, according to the McKinsey study.

Eastern Standard has been fully reserved during the Head of the Charles weekend for four months, Marlette said. At the Cambridge restaurants owned by the Grafton Group — Grafton Street Pub and Grill, Park, Temple Bar, and Russell Street Tavern — diners stream in all day and the afternoon lull between lunch and dinner disappears, said partner Patrick Lee.

“That ends up making it significantly busier,” he said. “We call it ‘lingering lunch.’ ”

BNY Mellon, an event sponsor, will have a hospitality tent and viewing stations at the Head of the Charles Regatta.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

At the Harvard Square Hotel, the property’s 73 rooms sell out every year, said director of sales and marketing Niamh Dwyer. Some of the rowing teams are regulars, she said, and book their rooms for the next regatta as they check out each year.


And the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary hasn’t hurt, either. “It’s busier, for sure,” she said. “We sold out earlier this year.”

The rush of business translates into more income for hospitality workers as well as their employers. At the Kendall Hotel in Kendall Square, additional kitchen staff and breakfast servers are scheduled to accommodate the more elaborate morning meal the hotel prepares for the hungry athletes it hosts, said general manager Brenda Anderson.

The impact extends beyond restaurants and hotels. Companies including Brooks Brothers, Victorinox Swiss Army, and Brighton-based New Balance will sell products in an area Schoch calls “retail row.” Schoch expects these displays to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales.

New Balance, a regatta sponsor, anticipates an influx of shoppers to its retail tent as well as at its flagship store, said associate marketing manager Andrew McGarty. The company has also designed a sneaker to commemorate the 50th regatta, which has been selling well.

For some companies, the regatta provides an opportunity for networking and brand-building.

Regatta sponsor BNY Mellon, a financial services firm headquartered in New York, will host clients and colleagues in a riverfront tent that offers clear views of the rowers, said Fred Young, managing director of sales and marketing for New England. The company chose to sponsor because the race expresses the firm’s values, he said. “Rowing is really about teamwork. It’s about drive, it’s about moving forward,” he said. “The partnership just makes perfect sense.”


For all the frenzy and hard work the weekend brings, businesses say the atmosphere created by the regatta is worth it.

“The Head of the Charles adds a layer of excitement that not only helps business,” said the Grafton Group’s Lee, but makes it more fun.”

Sarah Shemkus can reached at seshemkus@gmail.com.